Sorry for being away a bit long from my blog and not to be sharing new recipes with you. I have been very busy with moving and finishing my raw vegan studies at Matthew Kenney Culinary. But now I am back!
Probably those of you following me on Instagram, saw that I found an urban gardening plot very close to our new home in Encino, California. It is called Sepulveda Garden Center. It is a spacious community garden with hundreds of plots of flowers & plants maintained by local residents. I had my friend @farmerkelley to visit the plot today and even she was soooo impressed!!! And that is a big thing because she does farming, gardening for a living!!! On the hottest day of this year, in 97F we just never wanted to stop exploring the gardens… And Kelley has her own garden, grows beautiful edible produce for chefs in Los Angeles. Still, again, she was impressed….
So back to my story about the pea tendrils…. Last week when I discovered the place, I saw people cutting out their pea full of tendrils and leaves!!!
If you never tasted pea tendrils, you may not know what you are missing out…… Imagine eating crunchy lettuce that tastes the most delicate, sweet pea! (not the not edible sweet pea flower!!! but real, spring pea that is sweet. ) So insanely delicious, not to mention its beauty, how stunning it looks in salads and other dishes. So when I saw that some people are not aware of what they are throwing out, of course, I had to say hello 🙂 and suggest them not to do this next time:) 🙂 :)… So hopefully when they cut their peas back in the future, they will take the tendrils and blossoms home and eat them…. Until then with their permission I took some home. And of course I could never stop thinking, what to do with them, how to show you their beauty, and how to use them to highlight everything they have to offer. The only way to do it if the dish is all about them. Peas. Different textures, but same flavor. I also picked some stinging nettle (using a plastic bag;) during one of my walks. Stinging nettle is another spring messenger and has to be blanched to lose its stinging ability, and then it can be handled without gloves. This weed is true to its name for sure! Stinging! It is full of nutrients and really good to make tea, soups, sauces, oils.
So I decided to make a vegan gnudi using blanched peas and stinging nettle. Gnudi traditionally is made with ricotta, so I made my own almond one to replace it. I didn’t want to cook the gnudi, and the almond ricotta, blanched peas and nettle had the perfect texture to hold. If you want you can also try adding some flax meal or almond flour to the mix. I knew that I will add the pea tendrils and blossoms with a touch of lemon juice, to bring more pea flavor and crunch to the soft gnudi. So now the only thing I needed some cream to bathe that gnudi in. I decided to use almond milk because I didn’t want a different nut profile to introduce.
To make a flavorful crema, I braised some fennel and blended with almond milk and meyer lemon zest juice. The dish is fresh, vibrant, full of springy pea flavor with lemon essence and it is also an easy one to make.
I really hope you will try either making this whole dish or at least just use it as a flavor or technique inspiration in your own translation!
Ingredients ( serves 4 )
- 1 C blanched peas
- 1/4 C blanched stinging nettle
- 1 C almond ricotta
- 1 C almond milk
- 2 small fennel bulbs or 1 big fennel bulb sliced
- olive oil
- zest of 1 meyer lemon
- salt, black pepper
- optional cayenne and ground nutmeg
- meyer lemon juice to taste
- pea tendrils and blossoms and/or blanched peas
- fennel fronds
- How to blanch peas and stinging nettle? Bring a very big pot of water to the boil. Add salt so the water so it tastes like sea. (it doesn’t mean your pea will be salty- because you blanch for a very short period, but the beautiful green color will be retained!) Prepare another big bowl with cold water and lots of ice cubes in it. Working in batches blanch your vegetables only for a minute, and add only as much vegetable to the boiling water so that you don’t lose boiling. It might be a bit tricky, but the result is very different! So once you blanched the peas/nettle, immediately transfer it into ice cold water, to stop cooking and retain color. Drain well and dry it on a paper towel.
- How to make almond ricotta? Soak almond overnight. Next day remove the peels. Add almond with enough water to blend into a ricotta like texture in a food processor and process it. Do not use blender, that will make it into cream/milk. Add water bit by bit so you don’t get a loose cheese. Once you are happy with texture, add nutritional yeast, salt and a few drops of lemon juice. Then flavor with a smashed garlic clove or garlic powder if you want it. The nutritional yeast content is very subjective. For 1 C of almond use at least 1 tablespoon, and keep tasting it to achieve the cheese-y like flavor you like. Nutritional yeast is good for you, so don’t hold it back! 🙂
- To make the gnudi add blanched peas, blanched stinging nettle and almond ricotta in a food processor. Process it to keep a good structure, see on my close shots of the gnudi. I left the gnudi tasting very fresh and spring, so didn’t add anything else to it. I decided to shape them into quenelles with the help of two small teaspoons. If you don’t want to do that, you can simply make small balls. But the two spoon way of making quennels is so easy, and it looks beautiful with this dish.
- To make the crema first I sautéed the sliced fennel on a tablespoon of olive oil. Added a little bit of water (you can add stock), covered and cooked on very low heat until soft. Once cooked, in a high speed blender I blended the fennel and almond milk. Start adding little milk and add more bit by bit to make sure the sauce is not getting too thin. Season the sauce with salt, black pepper, meyer lemon zest, meyer lemon juice, touch of cayenne and the optional ground nutmeg.
- Drizzle pea tendrils, blossoms and blanched peas with olive oil and and meyer lemon juice. (my plating doesn’t have added blanched peas, but it is really good to add!)
- To plate, place a swirl of the crema on a shallow plate, arrange gnudi quenelles or balls alongside the swirl and arrange the pea tendril and blossoms and the peas, if you add that too, so that they form a close unity.